Three Men and an Arrogant Emperor
—Daniel 3—The Fiery Furnace
Andrew Fountain – July 1, 2018
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Take your mind away from here in Toronto—a very hot day in the summer, to a distant land under a hot Persian sun 2½ thousand years ago
The story of the statue and the firey furnace
How it connects with us
Take this distant story in a distant land at a distant time under a hot sun
and connect it to us right hear and now in Toronto
so that it means something very directly and specifically to us
For centuries the nation of Israel had been turning away from God,
Filling his temple with idols, and breaking all his laws
God patiently sent them prophet after prophet, but they rejected or killed them Finally God’s patience ran out and the nation is in captivity.
Living in a far land. Discouraged and persecuted. We have a lot of archeological remains from that time (actually slightly later than this event)
25m x 15m in size, and 100m off the ground
Can you guess which is the emperor Darius?
Notice anything about the people in front of him?
hands tied, captives Under his feet is one of his enemies
Flying up to the right of him is a demonic god figure, blessing the king
Authored by Darius the Great sometime between his coronation as king of the Persian Empire in the summer of 522 BC and his death in autumn of 486 BC
The inscription is approximately 15 metres high by 25 metres wide and 100 metres up a limestone cliff in three ancient languages
A life-sized bas-relief of Darius I, the Great,
holding a bow as a sign of kingship,
with his left foot on the chest of a figure lying on his back before him (reputed to be the pretender Gaumata) Darius is attended to the left by two servants
(Today’s account is about Nebuchadnezzar, who was slightly earlier, but had the same attitudes) and nine one-metre figures stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks, representing conquered peoples
The divine symbol of Faravahar floats above, giving his blessing to the king.
There was a generation who were young when they were taken into captivity, and grew up in this foreign land, but turned back to God
One of this generation was Daniel
Eventually Daniel was chosen to be one of the “wise men” in the nation King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
Can any of you who know the account tell me what this means?
Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian (Alexander), Roman, Jesus
b.t.w. this is one of the reasons that I am optimistic about the church in this age. 2. The Story
But then at some indeterminate time later, we read that the king actually built a statue:
King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made. It was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He erected it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he had erected.
Statue: maybe tried to build the one from his dream (must have forgotten what the symbol meant)
90 feet high! 9 feet wide —a 9-story building
Some people might think these are mytholgical dimensions
But here’s an example of another giant statue from ancient times “Heracles”
Bright shining gold, burning and dazzling in the sun out in the hot plain. But its no good if nobody sees it,
…officials from all the empire, the whole world would bow.
What message is he trying to convey with this statue
Nebuchadnezzar is the supreme being! Hundreds of civil servants and provincial rulers have arrived, with their servants and retinues,
the music starts, solemnly they all bow to their great emperor. But three men either were not there, or didn’t bow.
These men had enemies, who hated them and what they stood for. (v8)
They made sure the king knew about it.
He seems a bit surprised that anyone should not bow...
“is it true?...”
He is being
He’s not demanding that they
stop worshipping their God. Why, there must be hundreds of different gods in his empire! They can’t be so
conceited and intolerant
as to place their
little local deity above the emperor! Why should they be so exclusive?
But if they want a showdown, here is the furnace,
We’ll see about which god is stronger” v15e [“and who is the God...”] So here we have these three men, isolated, alone, before
We know the end of the story… they didn’t
There on the
hot plain, with the hot furnace a horrible reminder. All the officials are watching. The three men must have been tempted in their hearts to rationalize: any suggestions how?
Is it really
that much they are asked to do? Not worshipping it!
Bowing down slightly to the left
I’m going to think of it as bowing to God
Really it is
just a vow of loyalty to the king... isn’t it? God had put them in these places of authority,
Surely he would not want it all thrown away? Do you ever feel trapped?
You are pinned down by your circumstances, no way out. (Take a moment to consider)
These men must have felt trapped.
The only way out was this
unimaginably cruel death. We know what happened—put that out of your mind. Yet everyone was watching them.
God himself had been challenged. This was the knife-edge test of faith. Has your faith been tested?
Coming to Canada to study the Bible I found a totally different kind of challenge.
Give up secure career,
It felt like walking towards the end of a diving board, .... Immigration: Our children were not legally here, although we were!
Amazingly it was solved in a day...
Anyone else want to share? Describe furnace.
There it was... Everyone was watching them....
King wants to see their horrible end...
Suddenly he jumps up, astonished,
but it’s not the fact that they are still alive,
not that they are walking unharmed
in the middle of the fire, (ropes burned) but that there are
four of them. and the fourth is ...different. (??)
how amazing that Christ himself should so identify with his people.
Is. 43:1–4 They came out perfectly unharmed.
Everyone was there to see. Neb. still did not really understand!!!
but what an encouragement to God’s people!
Here’s another place where this truth is expressed:
Now, this is what the L
the one who created you, O Jacob,
and formed you, O Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you.
I call you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I am with you;
when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not harm you.
The story of the statue and the firey furnace
How it connects with us
3. How the story connects with us
How can we apply this to us?
We are not in the same position now!
We may suffer terribly through illness, but not the same I feel that the main point we can learn is this,
crucial to our whole Christian life,
as important to us, here in Toronto in the 1990’s, as out on the hot eastern plain. This vital question, asked of those three men, is asked of us now:
Connection with us
Does God have the exclusive authority in your life?
Or is he just one of many competing demands?
You have the same decision to make!
Does God have The Exclusive Authority in your life?
or he just one of many competing demands
work, family, home, friends, hobbies, career,
all jostling for place and time. We face the same challenge, but quieter:
no outright worship, just giving a bit more time to other things,
that really belongs to God.
In some ways it would be easier to have a clear-cut test
no white-hot furnace, just having to miss out on promotion,
or status, or moving to a better area. example of athlete training (exclusive...)
example of Vic saying my work was “just a hobby”.
Each of you will have many decisions to make:
if you do give God the exclusive place, he will be with you: Josh 1:9 Jesus Christ said this time and time again when people wanted to follow him
So want to ask you: where in your life right now...
If there aren’t any, you’re not a human being